Thursday, September 24, 2009

The history of man is a series of conspiracies to win from nature some advantage without paying for it

Today I spent a few hours at Waitangi, the grounds where the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand was signed, as well as the Treaty of Waitangi, the treaty between the English and the Maori tribes. For the Maori, this is basically sacred ground, and it is the birthplace of the New Zealand nation as we know it.

Waitangi is situated by the Bay of Islands, four hours north of Auckland, on the North Island, next to Paihia, where I'm staying. All the little towns along the bay are ridiculously focused on tourism, and I have never seen so many hotels, resorts and bed n breakfast places in one place as there are in Paihia. Five, six, seven in a row on some streets. There is basically no other industry here except tourism.

To my eyes, Allegra House takes the cake. Along with a few other places its on the top of a massive hill overlooking the bay, and the rooms are excellent. Better than most of the hotels I've stayed in over the years, except for the insulation which, like the rest of New Zealand, is really bad. If you ever go here you could definitely do worse than staying here.

Allegra House on the right

I took a tour at Waitangi, which basically consisted of listening to a Maori guide speaking about the history of his people and the details of the treaty. We were seated in Te Whare Runanga, which is the only meeting house in New Zealand dedicated to all the Maori tribes. Usually they belong to one tribe or even one chief. Te Whare Runanga was finished on February 6th, 1940, exactly 100 years after the treaty was signed.

Lawrence's face paint session at McDonalds had gone horribly wrong

He also spoke of the history of the Maori, who arrived in New Zealand or Aotearoa (the land of the long white cloud) around 1000 years ago in large, ocean-going catamaran canoes. They had left their Polynesian islands with the express purpose of finding new land that could sustain enough people to found a new culture. Once they found Aotearoa they started calling themselves Maori and brought over more of their kinsmen. The south island was deemed too cold, and all the tribes except one chose the north island to settle on. The guide said "We tried convincing them it was too cold, but it didn't work".

I poked around the area a bit more, had kick-ass French toast for lunch and then walked back to Paihia, which was a fairly long walk along the beach and then up the hill where Allegra House sits. Now I'm looking forward to a quiet night in, with my laptop and my book and the TV. Tomorrow, depending on the weather, might be more of the same or another walk.

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